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Archive for July, 2008

Dear Readers, This post was originally published in 2007. Since then, Oxford World’s Classics has reissued A Memoir of Jane Austen and Other Family Recollections by J.E. Austen-Leigh with a list of illustrations, a family tree, an introduction by Kathryn Sutherland, and additional family recollections by Henry Austen, Anna Lefroy, and Caroline Austen. Letters are included in the appendix of this rich book, which is filled with the most interesting details about Jane’s life and thoughts:

She certainly took a kind of parental interest in the beings whom she had created, and did not dismiss them from her thoughts when she had finished her last chapter. We have seen, in one of her letters, her personal affection for Darcy and Elizabeth; and when sending a copy of ‘Emma’ to a friend whose daughter had been lately born, she wrote thus: ‘I trust you will be as glad to see my “Emma,” as I shall be to see your Jemima.’ She was very fond of Emma, but did not reckon on her being a general favourite; for, when commencing that work, she said, ‘I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like.’ She would, if asked, tell us many little particulars about the subsequent career of some of her people. In this traditionary way we p. 158learned that Miss Steele never succeeded in catching the Doctor; that Kitty Bennet was satisfactorily married to a clergyman near Pemberley, while Mary obtained nothing higher than one of her uncle Philip’s clerks, and was content to be considered a star in the society of Meriton; that the ‘considerable sum’ given by Mrs. Norris to William Price was one pound; that Mr. Woodhouse survived his daughter’s marriage, and kept her and Mr. Knightley from settling at Donwell, about two years; and that the letters placed by Frank Churchill before Jane Fairfax, which she swept away unread, contained the word ‘pardon.’ Of the good people in ‘Northanger Abbey’ and ‘Persuasion’ we know nothing more than what is written: for before those works were published their author had been taken away from us, and all such amusing communications had ceased for ever.


During her life and shortly after her death, Jane Austen’s novels were not popularly known. Oh, she had her admirers, most notably the Prince Regent, to whom she dedicated Emma, and a few other distinguished personages, such as Lord Macaulay, Lord Byron’s wife, Ann, and writers Philip Sheridan and Robert Southey. But her works languished in relative obscurity until her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh wrote A Memoir of Jane Austen in 1869. His book was well so well received that he quickly published a second edition in 1871 that expanded on the first one.

In the memoir, Edward’s recollections and those of his family, including Jane’s nieces and nephews, all of whom remembered their aunt fondly, made Jane accessible to a fresh, new audience. Along with these family recollections, are letters from Jane to various people outside her family. The one below is written to a Mr. J. S. Clarke, librarian, Carlton House in 1815, two years before her death:

Dec. 11. ‘Dear Sir,—My “Emma” is now so near publication that I feel it right to assure you of my not having forgotten your kind recommendation of an early copy for Carlton House, and that I have Mr. Murray’s promise of its being sent to His Royal Highness, under cover to you, three days previous to the work being really out. I must make use of this opportunity to thank you, dear Sir, for the very high praise you bestow on my other novels. I am too vain to wish to convince you that you have praised them beyond their merits. My greatest anxiety at present is that this fourth work should not disgrace what was good in the others. But on this point I will do myself the justice to declare that, whatever may be my wishes for its success, I am strongly haunted with the idea that to those readers who have preferred “Pride and Prejudice” it will appear inferior in wit, and to those who have preferred “Mansfield Park” inferior in good sense. Such as it is, however, I hope you will do me the favour of accepting a copy. Mr. Murray will have directions for sending one. I am quite honoured by your thinking me capable of drawing such a clergyman as you gave the sketch of in your note of Nov. 16th. But I assure you I am not. The comic part of the character I might be equal to, but not the good, the enthusiastic, the literary. Such a man’s conversation must at times be on subjects of science and philosophy, of which I know nothing; or at least be occasionally abundant in quotations and allusions which a woman who, like me, knows only her own mother tongue, and has read little in that, would be totally without the power of giving. A classical education, or at any rate a very extensive acquaintance with English literature, ancient and modern, appears to me quite indispensable for the person who would do any justice to your clergyman; and I think I may boast myself to be, with all possible vanity, the most unlearned and uninformed female who ever dared to be an authoress. ‘Believe me, dear Sir, ‘Your obliged and faithful humbl Sert. ‘Jane Austen.’

As a result of Edward’s memoirs, the public embraced Jane Austen’s novels. Josephine Ross writes on page 3 in Jane Austen: A Companion, “Jane Austen had won the ‘admiration, even to fanaticism, of innumerable readers'; and in the years that followed, amid a surge of articles, essays, critical studies and reprints of her novels, the unmarried daughter of a Georgian vicar, who had feared to be made ‘a wild beast’ by her contemporaries, was to become one of the best-known authors in the English language.”

You can read Edward Austen-Leigh’s memoirs by clicking on this link to the Gutenberg Project. However, the Oxford’s World’s Classics edition will give you a more detailed view of Jane through her family’s memoirs and letters.

For additional information, you can also trace the origins of Jane Austen’s popularity in this link. Click here.

  • Image of Jane Austen’s portrait: Oxford World’s Classics book cover, which is available at Amazon.com in the UK and the U.S.

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A particularly nasty trojan horse infected my main computer when I was searching for information on the film adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, 1971. I will have to wipe my hard drive clean and reinstall. Thankfully, I have an external hard drive, so most of my files are already backed up. This nasty invasion comes at a particularly busy period in my work life, and thus I might not be able to write new posts for the time being. Except for one post, which is nearly completed, I shall have to resurrect some old posts that have not seen the light of day in a while. BTW, why do these cyber thugs invent spyware that disables pcs? Isn’t this counter productive to their intent, which is to get you to view their sites?

Thank you for your patience and support!  Vic

Image: Scarfe, New Yorker

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Edwardian Promenade, one of my favorite blogs, awarded me with an Excellent Blog Award. Thank you for the honor! This truly made my day, especially since other sites that have been chosen are fabulous and outstanding. You have placed me among august company. There are so many worthy blogs and I am having a hard time choosing. My criteria for passing this award on are that the blog must be well-written and researched; offer topics of historical, literary, cultural, or cinematic interest; and look visually luscious. Many of the blogs I would have nominated have already received this award, so here goes …

(Inhaling deeply) I would like to nominate the following ten, er, twelve sites.

  1. Austenprose: Laurel Ann, my blog partner on Jane Austen Today, always meticulously researches her topics and fits the appropriate image to the subject matter. You can tell that visual proportions count, and that she puts a great deal of thought and effort into her posts.
  2. Paris Parfait: If you have never seen this blog, hurry and click on the link. My one wish is to have enough money to visit Paris any time I like. Paris Parfait assuages those yearnings.
  3. Silver Screen Surroundings: This is Linda Merrill’s latest blog. I also visit ::Surroundings::, her interior design blog, but these days I am more drawn to her analysis of movie sets.
  4. 18th Century Blog: This blog’s visual feel is that of an 18th century confectioner’s shop. Most of the posts are written in English, but not all.
  5. The Period Movie Review: You will find movies reviewed within their centuries. The stills are gorgeous and I agree with the ratings more often than not.
  6. Emma Adaptations: Kali includes anything and everything about Jane Austen’s Emma. Her blog is a one-stop shop for all things Ms. Woodhouse, and I am amazed at the depth and scope of information on just this one novel.
  7. Ripple Effects: Arti’s interests turn to literature, movies, art, and other assorted topics that also interest me. I never know what I’ll find when I visit.
  8. Molland’s: This site is not a blog, strictly speaking, but it contains the excellent Austen.blog, and other worthy links about Jane Austen, her life, novels, and letters that draw me back over and over.
  9. Paris Breakfasts: The blogger of this site combines her watercolours of Parisian food and objects with photos of that astounding city. I am amazed at the scope of paintings and variety of photos of Paris foods, such as in this link. This site is definitely memorable!
  10. Ellen and Jim Have a Blog Too: Ellen is so knowledgeable and so productive. I am always amazed at the thoughts, connections, and ideas that come from Professor Moody’ mind. Her blog has a simple design, but you will spend hours reading and rereading her posts. She connects her topics to literature, history, art, philosophy, poetry, and film. Connectedness – isn’t that what blogging is all about?
  11. My eleventh blog (I know I went over the limit, but I could not resist) is Georgianna’s Gossip Guide. Click on the link and you will see why. These two art historians are wickedly witty and delightful.
  12. Bygone Beauty. I promise that this is my last nomination. Stopping by Kalianne’s world is like taking a trip down memory lane.

Thank you Edwardian Promenade for nominating me. I enjoyed passing this award on.

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100 Books Meme

The People’s Republic of Mortimer published “A Whole New Way With Memes.” Like Alix, the blog’s author, I am not tagging anybody. If you like to participate, just copy and paste this list of books into your own blog, and follow the instructions below, or add up the books you’ve read.

This list was compiled in the U.K. by the BBC. The average adult has read only 6 of the books on the list. I’ve read 59. (62)

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you love.
4) Strike out the books you have no intention of ever reading, or were forced to read at school and hated.
5) Reprint this list in your own blog. (This list in no way represents the top 100 books. It’s missing the Iliad and Odyssey by Homer. For shame.)

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 The Harry Potter Series – JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell

9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks

18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger

19 The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell

22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald

23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34 Emma – Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52 Dune – Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold

65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker

73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession – AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks

94 Watership Down – Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

As you can see, I’ve struck out no books, as they are all readable – eventually.

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When one thinks of a fashionably attired Regency lady, one also thinks of the lovely fan she most likely carried. These graceful objects were first used for cooling, but during the 19th century they became an indispensable fashion accessory. Flirtations were carried on with fans, which hid blushing cheeks or communicated a specific message. (Click on ‘The Language of the Fan’ post below)

In the eighteenth century, wealthy Georgian ladies, especially English ones, waved [fans] at masquerade balls, and wore them as a fashion accessory with almost every outfit that they owned. There were daytime fans, white satin bridal fans and even mourning fans painted with grisaille, i.e. black, white and grey. Classical fans, brought from Italy, replaced the luscious rococo of the French. As well as drawing attention to beautiful and perfectly manicured hands, these items played a big part in delicate flirtations. In fact, a whole ‘language of the fan’ had developed in England in Tudor times which became especially popular for middle and upper-class Victorian women who were courting. A folded fan placed against a lady’s chin told a gentleman that she found him attractive, for example, while snapping a fan shut was a curt dismissal! No wonder that the sixteenth century English writer, Joseph Addison, stated: “Men have the sword, women have the fan and the fan is probably as effective a weapon!”- Life in Italy, Handheld Fans

The following passage was written in the U.S. in mid-nineteenth century America. It describes an oppressively hot day in church in which so many ladies were fanning themselves that they created a significant breeze for others. “One old lady must have been thinking of a dancing-tune to which her feet kept time in the days of her youth, as her fan kept time with a regular hop, skip and jump, not at all like any psalm-tune I ever heard.” The author goes on to describe fans made of red and yellow, or resembling a great palm-leaf, or made of a peacock’s tail or turkey feathers, their delicate  ivory or sandalwood sticks and guards creating clicking sounds.

Those two young ladies who sit where side glances cross very conveniently from the crimson-cushioned pew occupied by a single gentleman, have consecrated theirs to the most effectual display of their ruby lips and laughing dimples, and I am kind enough to hope it will not be “all in vain,” and, as I have hinted, really think fans are often put to a worse use. No insignificant thing is the little flutterer, whatever may be its form or fashion – how many smiles and frowns and titters it hides, to say nothing of the blushes that take shelter behind its graceful folds. Many an ague fit have they given me; yet on the whole, I am not sure that I would banish them; were they the authors of ten times as much mischief, for I think it would cause a flutter among ladies, that would be more deleterious.

Into what a consternation they would be thrown if suddenly deprived of this relief in all embarrassments; and it is a curious fact, that in all heathen as well as all Christian nations, it is a favorite shield of the gentle sex. In all histories of queens and courts and festivals, the fan is conspicuous, whether it be among the Princes of Christendom, in India or China, or in the Islands of the seas. The true reason is that it is so graceful an appendage, and so kind a helpmeet in a moment of timidity or an hour of idleness.” -Minnie Myrtle, The Ladies and Their Fans, New York Times, June 30, 1854

Top Image from: Hagley Magazine: Fan Exhibit

Diagram of fan: The Fan Museum

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Planning a banquet for the Prince of Wales (later the Prince Regent) took an enormous amount of time, money, and effort. The following is a partial list of food Lady Fetherstonhaugh of Uppark estimated would serve one hundred guests in 1784:

Kitchen at Uppark

2 Bucks, a Welsh sheep, a doz. Ducks, – 4 Hams, dozens of pigeons, and Rabbits, Flitches of Bacon, Lobsters and Prawns; a Turtle of 120 lbs; 166 lbs. of Butter, 376 Eggs, 67 Chickens; 23 Pints of Cream, 30 lbs. of Coffee, 10 lbs. of Fine Tea; and three lbs. of common tea.

41 Port; 7 Brandy; 1 1/2 Hold of strong Beer; while Musicks cost £26 5s 0d and another chef to assist Moget cost £25; another 2 Bucks added cost £11; 2 more sheep cost only £2 10s, and another 2 carp £1 10s 0d. – National Trust, Investigating the !8th Century. p 26

One can only surmise that too many royal visits could deplete even the wealthiest family coffers! In January 1817, the Prince Regent asked Antonin Careme, the famed French chef, to cook a meal at Brighton:

On 18 January 1817, George invited the greatest (and most expensive) chef in the world, Marie-Antoine Carême, to prepare a unique and extravagant dinner in honour of the visiting Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia. Carême had previously cooked for Napoleon, the Rothschilds and the Tsar. But on that cold night in 1817, Carême outdid all his previous achievements – creating 127 dishes. The evening’s pièce de résistance was a 4ft-high Turkish mosque constructed entirely out of marzipan, although there were pigeon pies, saddles of lamb and a hundred other delicacies. So pleasurable was the feast that the Prince Regent exclaimed: “It is wonderful to be back in Brighton where I am truly loved.” – Blow Out! History’s 10 Greatest Banquets

Read more about food, entertainment, and the master of Uppark in the following links:

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When I took a peek at Marie-Antoinette’s Gossip Guide I was reminded of the eclectic surprise that awaited me on the grounds of Versailles during a visit a couple of years ago – Marie-Antoinette’s English garden and  Petit Hameau. This picturesque,  thatched-roofed village, inspired by Hubert Robert’s paintings, was created by palace architect Richard Mique in 1783 – 1785. One approaches the tiny hamlet through a naturalized English style landscape filled with follies and grottoes, and that opens up to a Grand Lac in the center of an enchanting faux village.

‘Everyone had heard of her private retreat at Trianon, and of the little hamlet she was having her architect construct there. It seemed a perverse extravagance, for the Queen to create a village for her own amusement while in many parts of France real peasants in real villages were in dire want. In her make-believe village stood eight small thatch-roofed cottages, their plaster walls cleverly painted with cracks to make them look weathered, their gardens full of vegetables and fruit trees. Nearby were barns, a poultry yard, and a mill. A farmer named Valy was brought in to live in the farmhouse and look after the livestock. Cows were pastured in a small field, and milked into porcelain tubs in an exquisite little dairy. The Queen had her own cows, named Brunette and Blanchette, and white goats and white lambs, rabbits and cooing pigeons and clucking hens. There was a note of pathos at the miniature hamlet, amid the abundant charm; it represented an almost childlike vision of a simpler, happier world. But the Queen’s critics saw nothing of this. To them the village was one more in a long list of frivolous purchases. They called it “Little Vienna,” and made fun of Antoinette indulging in her rustic pleasures.’ (C Erickson, To the scaffold the life of Marie Antoinette Robson Books 2000 p. 163)

Marie liked to dress simply in this setting, pretending to live a rustic lifestyle.


The Temple of Love, a folly inspired by antiquity, sits on an artificial island.

One passes a rustic grotto as one walks towards the small hamlet.


A violent storm in 1999 felled scores of ancient trees planted in Marie-Antoinette’s day, including a tulip tree from my home state Virginia, but many like this beautiful specimen survived.


Twelve cottages once encircled the lake. I find it simply amazing that during the French Revolution the citizenry did not overrun these symbols of a rich woman’s fantasy of the simple life and raze it, as it sat quite near the Village of Versailles, which is now part of the outskirts of Paris.


Marie Antoinette had her own tiny “play” house, which was connected to the billiard room by a wooden gallery. She and her female friends liked to dress as shepherdesses or milk maids while they occupied this pretend world. Flower pots were placed on the stairs,as in the photo. The barn was used as a ballroom, but it has since been demolished. Today one can still visit the mill (with its waterwheel), the guard’s room, the dovecote, and the kitchen.

More links about this topic:

First Image from the Guide Book: Marie-Antoinette’s Estate

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